Bill Gates, who really needs no introduction, gave an address to the American Federation of Teachers today. I got an opportunity to chat with Gates after the speech and will have more for you on that next week, but here's a rundown of the address. You can think of it as somewhat akin to AFT President Randi Weingarten's earlier one at this convention: very carefully balanced. Gates congratulated the union for committing to reforms in places like New Haven, Conn.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; and Pittsburgh, and thanked the AFT teachers participating in his foundation's "Measures of Effective Teaching" study. He ...


The American Federation of Teachers' delegates just passed two important resolutions, on teacher evaluation and school closures, so let's take each of them in turn. Resolution five, you may recall, codifies the AFT's evaluation framework and affirms that test scores, used appropriately and as one of several measures, can be considered in a teacher's evaluation. It was expected to generate quite a debate and possibly even amendment attempts, but in the end, it passed fairly swiftly. A whole slew of candidates, including the presidents of major affiliates, spoke in favor of the resolution: Mary Cathryn Ricker of St. Paul, Minn.; ...


This morning, two political bodies within the American Federation of Teachers presented their platforms for today's elections of AFT executive officers and council. That's right, I said two. Apparently, this is the first time since the 1970s that there has been a full slate of candidates opposing the incumbents. Keep reading. Current AFT Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson spoke on the behalf of the incumbents, which include herself, AFT President Randi Weingarten, and Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese. She underscored Weingarten's "vision" for moving the union forward, as well as her ability to fight back, and even call out allies: "I saw ...


It was always said of former American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker that he was a step or two out in front of some of his membership when calling for the union to change. (Think back to things like peer-assistance and review programs when they first came out.) Now, some members are asking the same question of AFT President Randi Weingarten, in what is becoming one of the subtexts of this year's convention. After all, Randi's balancing act is a tough one. Her desire to push the union's thinking on things like tenure and evaluation leaves her open to ...


American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten announced just a few moments ago that the union has reached the 1.5 million member mark. It has added almost 70,000 new dues-paying members in the past two years across all of its divisions, not just teachers. Weingarten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese, and Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson danced on stage to "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" after the announcement. (Kind of an odd choice, as that was former National Education Association President Reg Weaver's favorite grand-entrance song, but never mind.) Quite a different story at the NEA, where membership has ...


American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten had a sit-down chat with reporters after her keynote address to the AFT convention Thursday, and there was some in-depth discussion about what's probably the top teacher-quality issue on the table today: evaluation. AFT officials have said for a while now that over 50 locals are piloting teacher-evaluation systems based on a framework developed by the union. I asked about these districts' progress in implementing the plans. Some of them, like Pittsburgh, New Haven, Conn., and apparently now Cleveland, have put evaluations at the center of newly inked contracts, while others are just ...


In her keynote address today, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sought to present two sides of herself and her work for the union, as both reformer and firebrand. The union, she said, has been willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations about reforms to teacher evaluation and due process. But it won't hesitate to speak out against politicians and pundits who are using the mantle of reform to attack teachers. Weingarten had a lot of tough ground to cover in this speech, and it's a delicate balancing act to advance some reform ideas and fight against others. No doubt ...


American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten will be giving her opening keynote in just a short while. But before we get to that, here are a couple of guiding questions to pay attention to over the course of this convention. • What will AFT delegates' reaction be to recent education developments, like the Race to the Top? What do they make of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was the source of ire for National Education Association delegates earlier this week? • The AFT's Innovation Fund will announce its new grantees this Saturday. Who will the new grantees be? • President...


This year's NEA Representative Assembly ended at 7:24 p.m, and there are a few additional things worth mentioning. • The delegation had a pair of idiosyncratic votes on two back-to-back items. The first one, New Business Item 47, which would have directed the union to publish an article in an internal newsletter promoting national-board certification, was voted down. A second one, NBI 48, directs the union to secure contract language that "maintains, establishes, and promotes" subsidies and scholarships to earn the credential. That one passed. • With the economy struggling, delegates were generally quite concerned about the cost of new...


Education historian and advocate Diane Ravitch, the author of the bestseller The Life and Death of the Great American School System, came to the RA today to collect her "Friend of the NEA" award. She got a standing ovation after her speech panning the No Child Left Behind Act, the Race to the Top, charter schools, the "privatization" of public schools, merit pay, and efforts to shift away from seniority and tenure, among many other things. Suffice it to say that with an audience like the RA, which has big problems with all those things, her speech was akin to ...


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